By John Cooper, Railroad Worker Accident Lawyer
I was interested to read about the passage of legislation in California that requires trains carrying freight to be operated with an “adequate crew size” intended to protect communities along rail lines.
The legislation is intended to provide an extra safeguard in the case of accidents involving hazardous substances as well as protecting crews. It raises an important point. In recent years the railroads have stripped down the number of crew members on their trains, arguably leaving workers more vulnerable if something goes wrong.
Earlier this week California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation by Sen. Lois Wolk that requires trains and light engines carrying freight to be run with an adequate crew size to protect communities along rail lines and the railroad workers themselves.
The bill requires a minimum two-person train crew, according to the release from Wolk issued Wednesday.
“Today’s freight trains carry extremely dangerous materials, including Bakken crude oil, ethanol, anhydrous ammonia, liquefied petroleum gas and acids that may pose significant health and safety risks to communities and our environment in the case of an accident,” Wolk, D-Davis, said in the press release.
Wolk pointed out to the existence of more than 5,000 miles of railroad track that crisscrosses the state through wilderness and urban areas and said the potential for derailment or other accidents containing these materials is an ever-present danger.
“This new law will provide greater protection to communities located along rail lines in California, and to railroad workers,” she said in the release.
Senate Bill 730 prevents a freight train or a light engine in California from being operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least two people, the release stated. The bill also authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission to assess civil penalties, at its discretion, against anyone who willfully violates this prohibition.
The commission says of all the industries subject to its oversight – energy, water, telecommunications and transportation – rail accidents result in the greatest number of fatalities each year.
Over the last few years there have been a spate of derailments that have led to explosions and put communities in danger nationwide, including an accident in Lynchburg, Virginia in which the response of CSX was questioned.
These kinds of situations are frightening for communities and workers and it’s always good for workers to have back up. California often sets the national agenda for legislation and it will be interesting to see if other states enact similar legislation to Wolk’s.
If you have been injured on the railroad, you should call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 866-455-6657.